Changes of Stressed Vowels in Early Old English
§ 116. Sound changes, particularly vowel changes, took place in English at every period of history.
The development of vowels in Early OE consisted of the modification of separate vowels, and also of the modification of entire sets of vowels.
It should be borne in mind that the mechanism of all phonetic changes strictly conforms with the general pattern (see § 26). The change begins with growing variation in pronunciation, which manifests itself in the appearance of numerous allophones: after the stage of increased variation, some allophones prevail over the others and a replacement lakes place. It may result in the splitting of phonemes and their numerical growth, which fills in the "empty boxes" of the system or introduces new distinctive features. It may also lead to the merging of old phonemes, as their new prevailing allophones can fall together. Most frequently the change will involve both types of replacement, splitting and merging, so that we have to deal both with the rise of new phonemes and with the redistribution of new allophones among the existing phonemes. For the sake of brevity, the description of most changes below is restricted to the initial and final stages.
Independent Changes. Development of Monophthongs
§ 117. The PG short [a] and the long [a:], which had arisen in West and North Germanic, underwent similar alterations in Early OE: they were fronted and, in the process of fronting, they split into several sounds.
The principal regular direction of the change — [a] > [æ] and [a:] > [æ:] — is often referred to as the fronting or palatalisation of [a, a:]. The other directions can be interpreted as positional deviations or restrictions to this trend: short [a] could change to [ɔ] or [ā] and long [a:] became [o:] before a nasal; the preservation (or, perhaps, the restoration) of the short [a] was caused by a back vowel in the next syllable — see the examples in Table I (sometimes [a] occurs in other positions as well, e.g. OE macian, land, NE make, land).
Splitting of [a] and [a:] in Early Old English
|PG||OE||Other OG languages||OE||NE|
|O Icel dagr||dæʒ||day|
|a||o, ā||Gt mann(a)||mon||man|
|O Icel land||land||land|
|O Icel mánaðr||mōnap||month|
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